Stewart Beck, Canadian ambassador to Nepal, led a Canadian business delegation with representatives from companies such as Autothermic Gasifications Solutions Limited ( AGS Limited), Bell Helicopter, Clearford India Pvt.Ltd, Export Development Canada, HATCH and SNC-Lavalin. Beck talked to The Kathmandu Post about the objective of the business mission and outcome of the visit. Excerpts:
Please tell us about the purpose of your visit and outcome after meeting with the government officials and the private sector?
Last time I came here to present by credential as Canadian ambassador to Nepal, I realised that we really need to build a relationship based on economic development perspective too. So, when I returned it was important for us to find the Canadain venture companies typically doing business in India that would be good fit to work in Nepal as well.
In short term, we can capitalise on hydro energy because Canada has a long history here in that sector. There are two other areas too — general infrastructure and solid waste management, waste water management and of course, aviation in which we are interested. We met with officials of Nepal Airlines with which we have historical relations. It was relatively easy to organise business delegation but fundamentally it was a change in our traditional approach that is based on providing development aid to Nepal.
Currently, our approach is to find how we can create wealth from economic development.
Tell us about the companies having representatives in this delegation.
We have two Canadian companies—SNC Lavalin and Hatch—with a long history in Nepal. Both of them work in energy and water management sector and both of them have been in Nepal for 30 years. Similarly there is Bell Helicopter which is a great company with its commercial helicopter operation in Montreal. Then, we have Clearford India, a waste management company, and another AGS Limited which uses unique technology to produce energy from the solid waste.
What are the areas the Canadian companies looking for to invest in Nepal?
Like India, it is very difficult for a company to come into the market and sell the products. So, you have to figure out good business model that would work here. During the visit, lots of talks were around financing models we should put in place to make some of these projects work. And we spoke with The World Bank and The IFC too, which are very important partners. Also, one of the members of our delegation team is export development from EXIM Bank — an export credit agency. They generally work with Canadian companies but they also work with potential buyers and partners in the local market. Again they work very closely with the IFC. So, its an important part of eco-system that we are trying to put in place.
You had meetings with the government official and private sector. What are your impressions and how positive are you about putting investment here?
If you read international news paper it seems like there is political chaos but reality is different. I have talked with two ministers and secretaries and I can say that fundamentally everybody is concerned about the need for economic development. I talked with foreign minister and I was very impressed by the conversation. His focus was what we can do together for the economic development. It is not the normal foreign policy type of conversation which is very interesting. Likewise, there was interesting conversation with minister for culture, tourism and aviation which was about how do we build that bridge of economic co-operation. Definitely it will take some time for the politics to settle. As along as everybody is talking about the need of economic development, it is a better situation. Similarly, from the private sector, president of FNCCI gave us the presentation which was very good. He provided the analysis and the metrics regarding the performance of Nepali economics and he said that it is the good time to come to Nepal to do business. From the government side, they understand that they would not get proper economic development unless they put in place the policy and programmes that encourage private sector investment.
The bilateral trade between Nepal and Canada is very small. What needs to be done to promote the bilateral trade between the countries and what are the areas?
We have to build on the strength of the history and history has been in the area of water management, energy and transportation. Those are the areas to start and if we could build right types of projects and if we could bring right types of companies in, then the eco-system that exists around them will bring other companies. And again, if the government puts in place the right kind of policies that would encourages the companies and provides some degree of certainty. Businesses want to know what they are facing and as long as it is understandable to them it would be lot easier to mitigate the risk. Nepal, with its history, has certain level of risk and it is important to mitigate that risk. We are looking for more engagement here and we will have more presence here.
Was there any specific request from the government of Nepal?
No, there was not such specific request. The desire from their part was to bring more investment to Nepal to create the environment of economic development and that is what we need to take back and analyse and find out how we can come back in the best way.
You talked about closing down the mission office by 2014 and that the assistance from Canada would be from multilateral and global programme. So, don’t you think it would affect the Canadian assistance?
Yes, there will be some impact of that but through global programme to we will be putting in fair amount of fund into Nepal.
How important is this part of world i.e. South Asia for Canada and how are you looking after the events that are unfolding in the region?
India and other South Asian nations are our priority. One of the biggest markets of the world lies in this region, and more and more Canadian companies are now learning how to do business in this region. The number is increasing day by day.
Source : EKantipur